PHILADELPHIA -- Cliff Lee is scheduled to pitch live batting practice before Friday's game against the Braves -- the next step for the Phillies' ace in his return from a strained left elbow.
Lee will face a number of teammates, including both right-handed and left-handed batters. It will be the first time Lee has faced hitters since he went on the 15-day disabled list on May 19. He has thrown three bullpen sessions and has not reported any setbacks.
Manager Ryne Sandberg indicated Lee could begin a Minor League rehab assignment next week.
"Possibly, if all goes well, that would be the next step," Sandberg said before Wednesday's game against the Marlins.
Lee has not ruled out returning before the All-Star break. If not, he's likely to be ready for the first series after the break on July 18-20 in Atlanta.
Hamels posting All-Star-type stats in abbreviated '14
PHILADELPHIA -- Cole Hamels has had quite an interesting season.
Hamels, who will start Thursday night against the Marlins at Citizens Bank Park, started the season on the disabled list, but he would be considered a strong candidate to make the National League All-Star team based on a few numbers. He ranks ninth in the NL in ERA (2.76), 10th in opponents OPS (.652) and fifth in strikeouts per nine innings (9.20).
But because of some of the lowest run support in baseball -- a 3.75 run support average is 36th out of 51 qualifying NL pitchers -- he is just 2-4.
Most folks understand a pitcher only controls his win-loss record so much, but if there is a close call between two pitchers, the one with the winning record is going to beat the one with the losing record every time.
"Anyone would be frustrated pitching the way he has pitched and having little to show for it," Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg said. "It starts with getting some run support, play defense and when a guy is pitching like that, have something to show for it."
Rookie Giles stars with more than just fastball
PHILADELPHIA -- Ken Giles is known for his 100-mph fastball, but Phillies manager Ryne Sandberg has been just as impressed by the rookie reliever's slider and presence on the mound.
Over his first six innings with the Phillies, Giles has 12 strikeouts. The right-hander gave up a home run to the first batter he faced in the big leagues, but has since allowed just one hit and two walks.
"Nothing seems to bother him," Sandberg said before Wednesday's game against the Marlins. "His control is a few notches better than when we saw him in Spring Training. Good demeanor about him. He looks real confident."
Giles, 23, has found success using his overpowering fastball early in the count, and then mixing in an improved slider to fool hitters sitting on the heater.
"That's a tough combination," Sandberg said. "The hitters have to be on the fastball, because that's a pitch that's a reaction thing. He's getting flinches and all kinds of bad swings and check swings. ... He's even thrown two or three fastballs and then thrown the breaking ball not even close and gotten half swings out of that. It really says a lot, either him hiding the ball, the velocity or both, the deception, all those things."
Austin Laymance is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jalaymance. Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.